Yes, I know, you are rolling your eyes at the title of this article. Like everyone else in the hockey world including this writer has picked Vegas to lose during these playoffs. Technically I picked them to lose in the first round (LA Kings) and the third round (WPG Jets).
The smart money tells us not to doubt these Golden Knights especially with the red hot Marc Andre Fleury. So why pick the Caps to win this series? I need to go on my theory, that the eventual Stanley Cup champion needs to face adversity and have odds stacked up against them during the playoffs and somehow overcome it. This is traditionally what happens on the road to winning the toughest trophy in professional sports. No doubt Vegas has had much adversity during the regular season as an expansion team. But what have they endured in the playoffs in 2018? Let’s take a look at what these two teams have overcome to get to the final?
Golden Knights road to the final:
- Round 1: Vegas sweeps LA. The series is a lot tighter than the “sweep” would indicate. As he will continue to do throughout the next two rounds, MA Fleury stands on his head.
- Round 2: Vegas has a minor challenge against the San Jose Sharks who end up tying the series at 2 to give them some difficulty. The Knights go on to win game 5 & 6 (including a shutout in game 6 by Fleury) to finish off the Sharks.
- Round 3: Vegas faces the Winnipeg Jets, arguably the best team left in the playoffs and lose game 1. This will be the only time that the Golden Knights have trailed in the playoffs). Fortunately it’s only game one and the Knights behind some stellar goaltending go on to take the Jets out in 5. The Knights never trailed again on the scoreboard for the final 4 games.
Capitals road to the final:
- Round 1: Caps are down 2 games, losing both at home against Colombus only to come back and win four straight. Keep in mind game 3 (the pivotal game), they came through and won in double overtime. Veteran goalie Braden Holtby comes in after game 2 loss to take over for goalie of the future Philipp Grubauer and goes on a tear to get his team to the next round.
- Round 2: Caps finally defeat their arch rival. The Pittsburgh Penguins, finally find themselves on the wrong side of the Ovechkin – Crosby classic playoff duel and the Caps move on.
- Round 3: Caps face elimination after Tampa Bay wins 3 in a row to take a 3-2 lead in the series. With immense pressure on the Caps, they win the elimination game at home 3-0 (Holtby with the shutout). They end up finishing off the Lightning in Tampa Bay on the road with another Holtby shutout in game 7.
Washington’s road to the final has been full of tough odds, pressure in must win games and much adversity to overcome. The Golden Knights for some strange reason (Fleury as the main reason) has had relatively easy road to the final. You can argue that this will keep them fresh and ready to pounce on the worn out Capitals. But from my experience this is rarely the case. Ovi finally will get his Stanley Cup ring and the odds in Vegas will finally go against the Golden Knights. Capitals in 6